Last Updated 26 May 2023

Nauru is an island republic with a unicameral parliament and no political parties, with politicians usually standing on independent platforms. With a population of around 11,500, the island is the smallest republic in the world.1

According to the most recent full census (2011), the Nauruan population is predominantly Christian (95%). The Nauruan Congregational Church is the dominant religious denomination accounting for 36% of the population. The Roman Catholic Church accounts for 33% of the population, followed by the Assembly of God (13%) and the Nauru Independent Church (10%). The non-religious accounts for 2% of the population. All other denominations account for 1% or less of the population.2

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Constitution and government

The Constitution3 and other laws and policies4 protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. Limitations may be placed on these rights in the interests of “defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.”5, Articles 11 & 12 While there is no state religion, the preamble to the Constitution demonstrates a deference to religion stating that,

“We the people of Nauru acknowledge God as the almighty and everlasting Lord and giver of all good things:

AND WHEREAS we humbly place ourselves under the protection of His good providence and seek His blessing upon ourselves and upon our lives.”6, Preamble

Public officials are required to take an oath of office upon assuming their posts which require them to swear by almighty God. There does not appear to be an alternative affirmation available.

Education and children’s rights

Education is compulsory from four to 18 years old.7 There are reported to be 11 schools.8 Religious groups are permitted to operate private schools. According to law, the government may provide funding to privately run schools provided doing so would not compromise its ability to provide quality education for children at government schools.9

Article 76 of the Education Act (2011)10 states that education in government-run schools should be non-sectarian and secular, which “may include the study of different religions as distinct from education in a particular religion.” Government-run schools may allocate up to one hour a week to the study of religious education (defined as ‘education in a particular religion as distinct from the study of different religions’). During such time, recognised religious denominations may send a representative to teach students of that denomination. In line with Article 11(3) of the Constitution, students are not required to attend religious education classes, and the parents’ wishes should be complied with. According to the law, alternative study should be made available for those not attending religious education classes in a separate room.

Family, community and society

There are no reports of social discrimination against the non-religious.

Sexual health and reproductive rights

Reports indicate that social stigma combined with religious opposition, cultural practices and popularly accepted misconceptions have led to limited access to sexual and reproductive health services.11

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are guaranteed by the constitution but not always respected in practice. There have been increasingly frequent reports of government censorship of media, particularly attempts to prevent foreign media or activists reporting on the situation of asylum seekers in the country.12;

In 2016, the government enacted the Crimes Act,13 which brought in criminal penalties for defamation, and also includes sedition as a crime.

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